The oil -rich Niger Delta region, South South Nigeria has handed down a 16-point conditions for the return of peace to the troubled region, top most including reopening of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko and award of pipeline contracts.
This is part of the outcome of several months of consultations between the leaders of thought from the region and officials of Federal Government, which culminated in a visit to President Muhammandu Buhari at the Presidential Villa Abuja on Tuesday.
The Niger Delta stakeholders, under the aegis of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, demands, which were presented on behalf of the region by the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass Bayelsa State, King Alfred Diete Spiff, also include the allocation of oil blocks, demilitarisation of the region, relocation of the administrative and operational headquarters of International Oil Companies IOCs and the return of the the presidential amnesty programme suspended by this administration when it came on board May last year.
The stakeholders, who also demanded the return of law and justice to the region, argued that in view of the insecurity situation in the region a number of pending law and justice issues regarding some aggrieved groups and individuals are yet to be resolved.
They therefore insist that it has become imperative for the government to urgently address such issues with a view to ensuring lasting peace peace in the troubled region.
The stakeholders, who asked the government to halt the the escalation of tension in the region, also decried the negative effects of increased military presence in the region, arguing the increased in military presence has resulted in invasion of some communities, consequent displacement of persons, harassment and other forms of human rights abuses.
As part of the peace process, the group demanded that the lights of internally displaced persons be addressed by relevant government agencies taking urgent measures to meet their immediate needs and curb further upsurge.
On the presidential amnesty programme the region regretted that out of the five components of the disarmament and retrieval of weapons from the ex-militants, only the disarmament and demobilisation components have been implemented.
“Anxiety and tensions in the region over the fate of the amnesty programme is as a result of lack of genuine exit strategy. We therefore want a review of the programme, part of which is to reappraise its core mandate to provide a robust exit strategy in order to transit recipients into jobs, effectively integrate them so that their new-found skills would be of benefit to themselves and larger Niger Delta region”, a document sighted by Business and Transport said.
On the Ogoni clean-up and environmental remediation, the region urged the government to speed up the exercise.
They also asked the Federal Government to enforce zero gas flaring deadline, arguing that the devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of an effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities be tackled urgently. They also made a strong case for the Federal Government to commission a region-wide credible assessment of the impacts of crude oil pollution of the environment in the region and undertake to enforce the extant environmental laws.
On the Maritime University, the region demanded a prompt take off of the university.
It also called for the development of key regional critical infrastructure, especially the completion of the East-West road, full implementation of the rail project designated to run through the Niger Delta region to Lagos.
They also demanded that pipeline surveillance contracts be given to the communities rather than individuals. as well as security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure in the region, among other demands.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, who briefing State House correspondents after the closed-door meeting, said that the meeting was largely a courtesy call to bring to the front burner the issues of the Niger Delta and the concerns from the Niger Delta leaders.
The Minister, who also played a major role in the consultations that culminated in the meeting with the President and top officials of his government including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was also to address what the leaders of the region believed the federal government should do to reduce the pressure, stress and militancy in the region to the barest minimum.